Black Virginia lawmakers did not mince words at a Sept. 25 gathering in Mt. Zion Baptist Church.
“Do not go to the polling place on Election Day without ID,” said St. Sen. Mamie Locke, a Democrat who represents Virginia’s 2nd District in the state’s General Assembly.
“Have some form of identification. There are any number of pieces of identification that can be used. If you’re taking someone to the polling places make sure that they don’t leave home without some form of identification,” Locke said.
She was part of the crowd of 100 clergy, lawmakers and would-be voters at the Arlington, Va. talking about the changes in voter identification laws that could affect the outcome of the 2012 presidential election.
They also shared reports of voter misinformation tactics such as robo-calls stating different voting dates for Democrats and Republicans and rumors that if you voted in 2008 you must re-register to vote in 2012. The legislators emphasized that this information is false and suggested that voters refer to their voter registration card or the Board of Elections to verify Election Day rules and polling places.
“How many people got an email saying that you had to vote a straight Democratic ticket in order for your vote to count,” asked Locke. A third of the hands in the room went up in the air. “That email is a lie, if you get that email delete it because it is not accurate,” Locke said.
The town hall meeting was sponsored by the Arlington/Alexandria, Va. Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. (AKA), in conjunction with the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC), on a day officially designated as National Voter Registration Day.
Acceptable forms of identification to vote in Virginia include a voter registration card, valid Virginia driver’s license, military ID, any Federal, Virginia state or local government-issued ID, employer issued photo ID card, concealed handgun permit or a valid student ID for college institutions in Virginia. Other approved forms of ID are utility bills, bank statements, government check or paycheck with voter’s name and address or a social security card.
According to the Virginia State Board of Elections (SBE), if a voter shows up without an acceptable form of ID she or he will be allowed to vote a provisional ballot. A voter will have until noon the Friday after the election to submit a valid form of ID for the provisional ballot to count.
Locke expressed her reservations about the new voting process.
“How many people are going to actually take the time to go back and show their ID so the ballot will count, particularly after the election has been called,” Locke asked.
The legislators also addressed the pledge by Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell (D) to send every voter a new voter registration card before the Oct. 15 voter registration deadline.
“He promised that every registered voter would get a new voter identification card. If you have not gotten it, I suggest you contact the state Board of Elections because if you have not gotten it then that signals that something is wrong,” said Locke.
Other panelists for the town hall included state Del. Mamye BaCote (D), Rev. Kenneth Ballard of Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Pamela Perkins, National Treasurer of the National Urban League Young Professionals (NULYP) and Elmer Lowe Sr., president of the Arlington, Va. chapter of the NAACP.
Alexandria City Council member Alicia Hughes attended the town hall and expressed concern for voters regarding identification on Election Day.
“Fortunately in Virginia you are not required to have a photo ID to vote and people need to be aware of that and aware of the many different things they can take in case there’s an issue,” Hughes said.
“I don’t want anybody to show up without any form of any ID at the polls because if there’s any misunderstanding or misinformation I want our voters to be safe instead of sorry. I don’t want anyone turned away on Election Day,” said Hughes.
AKA has partnered with the NAACP and the National Urban League (NUL) to spend September educating voters on ballot law changes, voter suppression and how to get out the vote on Nov. 6.
“This is a very important initiative and last effort to get out there and reach the community,” said Joyce Henderson, AKA Alexandria/Arlington chapter member.
BaCote, whose district covers a significant student population in the Virginia tidewater region described the decisions some of the college students have made regarding voting.
“Of my students (that I teach) all of them decided that their best bet was to have their residency at school on campus,” said BaCote. “And they can tell their parents they will not lose any money from scholarships. They can still be registered in Virginia even though they may live in Ohio or Pennsylvania. They can register in Virginia with their dorm address and they may vote,” BaCote said.
For Virginia students who wish to vote absentee, they must submit the application for absentee ballots the Tuesday prior to Election Day by 5 p.m. EST to their local general registrar’s office.